Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Would You Give Your Son Cancer for $500?

I heard from a Mother-In-Law of the bride recently. Her son's fiancee had ordered her dress from us and now she wanted to cancel her order.

Now, let me explain to you why wedding gowns are final sale at virtually every bridal salon across America. First, once a bride places her order, gets measured and puts a deposit on her gown, the bridal store places the order with the manufacturer, who then schedules the cutting of the gown with their factory in China. Remember, every gown is made to order, at least in this price point. The manufacturer looks at how many orders they have for each style of gown they offer, in each color and in each size to determine when they will be making the dress. Once they have scheduled the cutting of the gown and have sent their estimated date and order confirmation back to the store, the bridal shop cannot cancel the order and are committed to paying for this dress when it arrives in the store. The second reason dresses are final sale is that weddings get canceled, plans change, and the worst, brides will look at their beautiful dress they just bought from you on the internet and see a host of questionable websites willing to make it for them for less.

Although our store, like others, has the final sale policy, we will at times decide to return someone's money if we feel like the situation warrants it. Examples of this have been mostly death or illness of the couple or family or unexpected deployment for a bride or groom serving in the military. These times, by necessity are few and far between because we potentially lose hundreds of dollars not of lost profit, but actual money on a dress that was made to order and we may never sell again.

When this Mother-In-Law called, she announced that the wedding had been canceled and we needed to give the bride her money back. Her consultant explained the policy and told her that she could not get her money back. Then a string of calls demanding her money back. And this is how it was handed to me, being a senior consultant and, in essence, the boss of the floor. So I returned her call, listened to her rant about how the wedding was canceled and they didn't need a dress and she wanted her daughter-in-law-to-be to get her deposit back. I listened to everything she said, and then gently explained that I could not cancel the order with the manufacturer, therefore, I could not give her any money back.

There was a silence for a few seconds on the other end of the line. Then she dropped the bomb: "The wedding is canceled because of cancer. The chemo has been so expensive and the medical bills are too much and it's hard to plan a wedding when you are fighting for your life!"

I couldn't agree more. This is a horse of a different color. But, and I hate to be cynical, I noticed that she had never mentioned this fact in her previous phone calls, which I thought odd. I expressed concern for the health of the patient, noticing that she hadn't told me who it was. She told me that it looked like the cancer was in remission and quickly changed the subject back to when could the bride get her money back. I pushed on and asked if the bride had been the one fighting for her life. She said no, and asked again about when we would issue the refund. I kept pressing and asked if it was the groom, her son, who had been so ill? There was a moment's pause, then, "yes, yes it's my son."

I felt awful. But I didn't know what to feel awful about: that her son had cancer and was fighting for his life just as he should be beginning it, or that I felt like a terrible person because, I didn't believe her.

I promised to talk to the owner of the store and call back before the end of business with an answer.

I shared the story with my boss, and my doubts about it's veracity. She decided that we would give her a refund on the dress, but told me to call the bride and speak with her directly, since she is the one we contracted with and who bought the dress. I called her and got her on the phone. She was elated to find out that she would get her money back. I told her I was happy to have been able to help her and asked her how everyone was feeling, that her mother-in-law had told me about the illness.

She said, "Oh, yes, my Dad had had a lump removed from his lower back, but he had some chemo and it looks like they had gotten it all so he's good. He's glad that he'll be able to come to our wedding, now that we've decided to scrap the formal reception and get married in Jamaica!"

So my instincts were correct. No groom with cancer, apparently no one even fighting for their life. I felt like my sympathy was used and I had an awful turning in my stomach. But I had the last word: "I'm glad to hear that everyone's healthy and doing well and that the wedding is still on. I'll be sending you a check in two days for your refund. I would like you to know, however, that your future Mother-In-Law told me that it was not your father but your fiance who was battling cancer, and that your wedding was canceled because of his fight for life and the mounting medical bills. I myself just lost my Father unexpectedly recently, and I think Dads are just as important as the groom, so she didn't need to lie and give her son cancer to play on my sympathy and get you your money back."

She was embarrassed and apologized to me. I sent her the check and never heard from her or her Future-Mother-In-Law again. These are the days when I wonder about people and the differences between them and to what lengths they will go get their way.


Madison said...

Once again, you are a better person than I am. Once I heard the whole story I would have hung up without comment, written a letter to the bride, future mother-in-law and fiance (all the same letter just copied) and explained that, as explained numerous times to the mother-in-law we did not give refunds on dresses, for exactly this reason: people change their minds and want us to shoulder the financial burden for their indecision. I would have gone on to say that when the mother-in-law had been told this she made up an elaborate lie canceling a wedding that wasn't cancelled and giving the bridegroom cancer when he was perfectly healthy. I would explain the very rare circumstances when we do entertain refunds and explain that her extensive lie to take advantage of the store's compassion was pathetic. I would throw in that as explained, the dress was already ordered and that someone had to pay for it and then I would ask why she thought that the sales person should have to cover the loss when she had no control over the situation at all. (It only implies the sales person is financially responsible so if that isn't accurate at least it isn't a lie). I'd conclude with, although I hoped that the bride and groom had a wonderful life together, I hoped that the lie it was started it off with wasn't a sign of things to come.

Most of all, I feel badly for he bride. THIS is the woman she is going to have to deal with all her life and it sounds like if she doesn't get what she wants she'll just effect a lie to manipulate it. We all know how difficult some mother-in-law relationships can be, but this woman is in for a doosy! I might even put that in the letter. It sounds harsh, but it just may save this woman a lot of future heart ache.

But then, handled that way this would end up in my blog, not yours.

Susan Tipton said...

So sad, in so many ways.